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World of Wicki Schmuck

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Story of My Life front cover
At picnics and parties in the East Bay, Max and friends explore new musical worlds with African drums, Appalachian banjo, saxophone, flute, and vocal improv.

After the destruction of Max’s San Francisco loft and the loss of the Terra Incognita band’s studio in the Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989, Max moved across the Bay to Oakland. Terra Incognita drummer Michael Corbett helped him to acquire and learn African drums and percussion, and eventually they started a new band, Wickiup, based on tribal-inspired rhythms. Mike habitually gives everyone and everything a parody of their name, hence “Wicki Schmuck.” This volume combines the best moments from jam sessions featuring Max and his Bay Area friends from 1990 to 1995, when Wickiup disbanded and Max moved to Los Angeles. Most of them took place at picnics or parties, resulting in erratic sound quality.

We hope your ears are tickled by the distinctive buzz of the West African gungon drum, caused by a gut snare rattling against the drum’s goatskin head!

Max's African Drums

Release date May 25, 2018

Copyright © 2018 Max Carmichael

Sessions & Tracks:
Drummage American Style

Tilden Park, East Bay Hills, August, 1990: Max, Michael Corbett, Katie Rauh, Kenny Schachat, Bruce Bjerke, Kele Duncan, Quinn Walker, John Walker

Drummage American Style

01 Possession

Gungon: Kenny; Talking Drums: Mike & Max; Percussion: Katie, Kele, John

02 Big Drum Stomp

Gungon: Mike; Talking Drum: Max; Conga: Katie; Percussion: Kele, John

03 Mystery Spot

Sax: Bruce; Talking Drums: Mike & Kenny; Gungon: Max; Percussion: Katie, Kele, John

04 Kenny’s Kalimba

Drums of Love

Tilden Park, East Bay Hills, October 13, 1991: Max, Michael Corbett, Millie (Mila) Morales, Kerry Gaffey

05 Tom Tom Klub

Gungon: Max; Talking Drum: Mike; Shekere: Millie

06 Rolling Thunder

Gungon: Max, Talking Drum: Mike

How Swarming Party

Max’s Oaktown Ranch, January 26, 1992: Max, Michael Corbett, Bruce Bjerke, Kat Keigharn, Josiah Seiver, Millie (Mila) Morales, Carson Barnes, John Walker, Quinn Walker, and others. Max’s ranch, in the Temescal District of Oakland, was built on the site of a Native American sweat lodge which gave the neighborhood its name.

How Swarming Party

07 Kountry Karavan

Banjo: Max; Talking Drum: Mike; Sax: Bruce; Percussion: Kat, Millie, John, Josiah

08 Train 45

Banjo & Vocal: Max; Sax: Bruce; Congas: Mike; Percussion: Kat, Millie, John, Josiah

09 Off Broadway

Shekere: Max; Talking Drum: Mike; Sax: Bruce

10 Last Stop Jupitah

Sax: Bruce; Talking Drums: Max & Mike; Percussion: Kat, Millie, John, Josiah

Wickiup Jam

37th Street Studio, Oakland, January 22, 1994: Max, Jane De Cuir, Michael Corbett

Wickiup at 37th St Studio

11 I Remember I K Dairo

Gungon: Mike; Guitar & Talking Drum: Max; Shekere: Jane

12 Shining Eyes

Guitar & Vocal: Max; Talking Drum: Mike; Shekere & Vocal: Jane

13 Lone Riders

Guitar: Max; Talking Drum: Mike; Cowbell: Jane

14 Jackalope’s Lament

Gungon: Mike; Guitar: Max; Cowbell: Jane

Wickiup Barbecue

Tilden Park, East Bay Hills, April 16, 1994: Max, Michael Corbett, Bruce Bjerke, Kat Keigharn, Josiah Seiver, Carson Barnes, Quinn Walker, John Walker, and others

Wickiup Barbecue

15 Centipede Waltz

Gungon: Mike; Banjo: Max; Percussion: Kat, Bruce, John

16 Hai Yucka Hai-Ya Na Hai-Yuh

Vocal: Josiah; Gungon: Mike; Banjo: Max; Percussion: Kat, Bruce

17 Bouncin’ Bones

Wooden tongue drum, misc. percussion: Various

18 Knick Knack Knook

Gungon: Mike; Talking Drum: Max; Vocals & Percussion: Various

19 Wicki Schmuck Society

Gungon: Mike; Talking Drum: Max; Percussion: Various

Wickiup Jam

37th Street Studio, Oakland, October, 1994: Mike & Max

20 Welcome to Nowhere

Vocals: Mike & Max

Historic Sessions: Buried Treasure from the Archives
In the old cliche, new music is created by an individual composer or songwriter sitting alone with a keyboard or guitar. That's great for creating formulaic hits in an established genre, but it may not help the artist to learn new things, expand his or her horizons, or achieve breakthroughs. Music is primarily a social activity, and it thrives when the communal memory and imagination of a group flows together in the space between players, and even audience members, to create those magic, irreproducible moments that become the highlights of our musical experience.

Knowing this, Max and his musician friends have always tried to record their jam sessions and parties with whatever technology was available, and dub the best tracks onto compilation tapes that they'd give titles – evoking the memory of the event itself – and share with each other.

If they were camping out in the desert, they'd use a cheap battery-powered boom box with cassette tapes. In the early years of the Terra Incognita loft, they borrowed a friend's old reel-to-reel deck with 7" tapes, recording at low speed so they could play for 90 minutes at a time without changing reels. And when Sony launched its Pro series of compact, portable, high-quality cassette recorders, they adopted the rugged metal-bodied D6C, with its little stereo microphone, as the standard. Cassette tapes were perfect for sharing – a physical object, not too big and not too small, that they could decorate with handmade art. These compilation tapes were not the better-known "mixtapes" of commercial music, but collections of the musicians' own best work, to inspire them to keep going.

After decades of balancing the conflicting egos of musicians in a long series of groups and struggling to survive as an artist in California's increasingly hostile economy, Max finally lost heart and decided to work alone. But recently, digging into his archives – two boxes containing hundreds of cassette tapes – he found buried treasure: dozens of hours of jam sessions he'd recorded but never had the chance to listen to afterwards. And he began to think of ways to distill these lost gems into the ultimate compilations of spontaneous music to share with his friends and fans.

When you're truly improvising, you're going to make mistakes. And what seems to be a mistake at first, sometimes turns out to be a discovery. But professional musicians are trained to avoid mistakes, so they often lack the freedom or courage to improvise. Even in jazz, which is most people's only experience of improvised music, the players are following an established song structure and are only allowed brief solos in which to embellish on the composer's themes in familiar ways. In free improvisation, without an established structure, the mistakes are part of the discovery process.

Non-musicians may sometimes find these raw, improvised tracks hard to listen to, but musicians know that we learn the most from work that challenges us.

Josiah with Sony Pro

Friend Josiah with Sony Pro cassette recorder, recording Wickiup at San Francisco's Bottom of the Hill nightclub

Didactyl Brothers Crack House

Mark Norris's compilation tape from the Didactyl Brothers' "Crack House" jam session

All contents Copyright © 2010-2019 Max Carmichael